Choral Works

'The music has calming a cappella air of "spiritual polyphony" - sometimes dreamily tuneful, sometimes bleak and eerie [...] Many of these small-scale pieces were commissioned by the Schola Cantorum Reykjavik, who bring them beautifully to life'

The Financial Times (4 stars)

'The performances are authoritative, the booklet of notes and texts informative [...] and the recording excellent, at least in 24/96 format. Another outstanding download-only release from Resonus.'

MusicWeb International

'Schola Cantorum Reykjavík under Hörður Áskelsson's direction provide a fine technical performance, but more than that they create a wonderfully evocative and expressive atmosphere. Eerie, haunting and mysterious certainly, but stunning as well.'

Planet Hugill

'The Schola Cantorum Reykjavik under Hörður Áskelsson sing very well indeed [...] Any readers with an interest in contemporary Icelandic choral music should click on at their earliest opportunity'

Cross Rhythms


Hafliði Hallgrímsson is one of the leading figures in Icelandic musical life, and his work Mini Stories sets the surreal poetry of the soviet-era writer Daniil Kharms to music. Whilst internationally renowned actor Simon Callow brings Kharms’s texts to life, the Icelandic Caput Ensemble reflect the mood with stellar performances of Hallgrímsson’s evocative accompanying composition.

"a glorious concoction of Russian surrealist stories … with highly original, sometimes aphoristic and always apposite music that ranged from abstraction to reflection to manic hilarity…"
The Herald

"a clever, entertaining, but ultimately unsettling piece of music-theatre. Kharms and Hallgrímsson make you laugh one minute, then feel vaguely guilty for laughing the next."
The Scotsman

Notes from a Diary

During a visit to Amsterdam two years ago, I found myself standing by a dark window covered in grey dense material in a house, no. 263 in Prinsengracht, where Ann Frank and her family hid from the Nazis for two years during the Second World War. Standing by the window in this environment and what it represented was strangely muted. Suddenly a large bell was struck in the Westertoren Church nearby and the deep resonance emanating from that bell shook me profoundly for a split second. So this was the sound that Ann found reassuring; I was for a few moments painfully aware of her terrible fate. When I started work on a composition for viola and piano, the experience in the Ann Frank Museum became more and more the magnet that shaped the musical character of the work.

The mysterious and almost secretive sound of the viola seemed perfect for the sound-worlds I wished to create. The piano represents at times the "outer" world and the viola the "inner" world. Notes from a Diary consists of 15 short movements that form a larger whole, like songs in a song-cycle. There are no direct references to Ann's diary, but much to my own "diary of sounds" that emerged gradually from that single stroke of a bell that I heard in the Ann Frank Museum in Amsterdam.

Hafliði Hallgrímsson, August 2005

Truls Mørk plays Hallgrímsson

"These two works are seminal in defining the rigorous integrity that filters through every pore of Hallgrímsson's music. (...) Mørk's realisation is gripping and inexorable, backed by sensitised support from Finnish conductor John Storgårds. These excellent recordings do full justice to a composer worth considerably more than his secondary reputation would suggest."

Kenneth Walton, The Scotsman, May 27, 2009

Music for Solo Piano

Best known for a series of works for solo instruments and orchestra - including a highly successful concerto for his own instrument, the cello - Hafliði Hallgrímsson is also a master of the epigrammatic miniature. The piano music on this disc spans his career from 1963 to 2008, and the brilliant young pianist Simon Smith is a vital advocate of its varied colours, textures and resonances.

"Toughness, range and expressive power"
- The Guardian on Hafliði Hallgrímsson

"An outstanding player with a huge expressive range"
- International Record Review on Simon Smith

Herma; Ombra; Ríma

"Herma (1994; the name derives from a bust of Hermes used in ancient Greece as a good luck charm) and Ombra (1999; 'shadow') are both single-span concertos, for cello and viola respectively, both constructed compellingly from chains of inter-related episodes. Once again, Haflidi's lyrical gift and sheer facility for string writing shines through (no surprise for so accomplished a cellist). Both soloists wear the music like a glove and the accompaniments are again splendid, as is Smekkleysa's sound. An excellent disc."

Guy Rickards, Nordic Sounds, 01 August 2005


A chamber-music portrait of Hafliði Hallgrímsson, one of the most influential figures in the recent flowering of Icelandic music. Enigmatic yet eloquent, inscrutable and self contained, these exquisitely crafted, jewel-like works reflect the personality of the composer himself as well as his multi-faceted literary and artistic interests and influences.

"... beautifully played"
- The Sunday Times, February 2008

"A real winner here"
- Musical Pointers, February 2008


"(...) absolutely spine-tingling and sound and graphic stereo separation, it sounds suspiciously like a modern religious masterpiece (...). Enthusiastically recommended."

Calum MacDonald, BBC Music Magazine, May 2004, Performance ★★★★★ , Sound ★★★★★

"Mary Nessinger and Gardar Thór Cortes (...) offer impassioned singing (...). Ondine's recording captures the spacious acoustic in vivid, high-impact sound."

Victor Carr Jr.,, October 2004, Artistic Quality 10 / Sound Quality 10

Daydreams in Numbers

"At the start of the programme, yet by no means swept aside by what came later, were six out of 18 Icelandic Miniatures by Haflidi Hallgrimsson, charming, sparkly, sometimes moody studies in string tone entitled Daydreams in Numbers. Conducted by the composer, they were treated with all the attention to line and rhythm they deserved." Conrad Wilson, The Herald

Written in Sand

_"(...) forty minutes of music by Iceland's most important composer... Poemi is both a violin concerto and a dramatic representation of Chagall's pictures. This is a powerful, virtuosic work - a modern masterpiece" MusicWeb International

About Hafliði Hallgrímsson

An important figure in the field of Icelandic contemporary music with a growing international reputation, is Hafliði Hallgrimsson. Born in 1941 in the small town of Akureyri on the north coast of Iceland. He began to play the cello at the age of eleven and from 1958-1962 studied the cello at the Music School in Reykjavík. The following year he attended classes given by the legendary cellist Enrico Mainardi in Rome. Having been a member of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra from 1963-1964, he continued his studies in London at the Royal Academy of Music. He was awarded the coveted Madam Suggia Prize and a Recital Medal when leaving the Academy in 1966. Following his studies at the Academy, he studied composition privately with Elizabeth Luthyens, Dr. Alan Bush and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.